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Being Trans in America Was Already Scary. Now It’s Terrifying.

| November 6, 2018

transgender america trump

Erased. (Shutterstock)

By Robin Carver

I’m a trans woman, and I’m terrified.

Already, on any given afternoon, I’m regularly and publicly catcalled, mocked, laughed at, and treated as an object of social disgust. Trans women are one of the most assaulted and murdered demographics in the United States, especially when they’re non-white.


We’re the frequent and favorite target of even liberal-leaning culture outlets like Saturday Night Live. Even Democratic darling Kamala Harris repeatedly fought to deny life-saving medical treatment to incarcerated trans women when she served as California’s attorney general.

Even lesbian, gay, and bisexual advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign took decades to support trans activism.

Worse still, in 29 states we can be legally fired or evicted from our homes simply for being trans. And a recent Department of Health and Human Services policy allows any medical provider to deny trans people care of any kind, even in emergency rooms.

Some small progress came with the Obama administration, which updated guidelines for changing the sex marker on important ID documents. The Obama-era Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and several others began adopting more inclusive terminology that expanded already existing civil rights protections to trans people.

In May of 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch sued North Carolina over its controversial “bathroom bill.” In a speech delivered at that time, Lynch said, with specific reference to the trans community, “This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise. … It may not be easy, but we’ll get there together.”

That promise is gone.

The New York Times reports that the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services is working across multiple agencies to establish an official definition of sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

The memo continues, “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

other-wordsThis definition goes to absurd lengths to define broad swaths of trans people as explicitly belonging to the sex they were coercively assigned at birth. It flies in the face of the broad consensus of the medical community that treats trans people and worldwide standards for trans health care.

It’s a fundamental denial of our most basic and important claim: that our sex and gender cannot be accurately identified at or before birth, and they are not sufficiently explained by a binary of female/male, woman/man, or XX/XY.

It’s the policy equivalent of telling trans people that we don’t exist. It’s flatly absurd.

This policy, if put into effect, would expose trans children to violence and psychological trauma at school. It would deny trans adults critical access to appropriately gendered homeless shelters, prisons, and restrooms. It would specifically eliminate the basis on which we could make any case for discrimination of any kind at the federal level.

Even worse, Congress has no say over the implementation of this policy. In theory, it could be overturned in the courts, but a conservative majority there is unlikely to support trans rights.

Even when Trump leaves office (whether after 2020 or 2024) the next president would have to undo two to six years of precedent to get us back to where we are now — which they could only do if the right-wing Supreme Court doesn’t strike a blow in the intervening time.

Being a trans person in America was already scary enough. Now it’s downright terrifying.

Robin Carver is a development assistant at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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15 Responses for “Being Trans in America Was Already Scary. Now It’s Terrifying.”

  1. FlaglerRedo says:

    The statistic’s the author cites are not a scientific study. They are from an ACLU questionnaire, not from the FBI Crime reports. I am a man, and every cell in my body is hard coded that way, except for half of my sperm cells. You can’t change you age or you sex. Actually, you probably put together a better logical argument for changing your age.

    Of course everyone should be treated with respect and dignity, but people can’t even do that for normal people.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      FlaglerRedo, the number you seem to object to is that “one in four transgender people have been assaulted because they are trans,” and that that’s based on a survey. Did you care to note that the survey sample “included 27,715 respondents from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas,” or that it consisted of 80,000 written responses? We’re not talking Rasmussen Reports here with a margin of error of plus or minus six light years. But let’s assume that, since they’re trans, they’re screwed up lying little bastards and only, say, one in 10 transgender people have been assaulted because they’re trans. Just 10 percent. Is that better? Does that in any way improve conditions, when you have just a 10 percent chance of being assaulted? As to your second point: you’re conflating sex and age as if they’re in the same category, a seemingly aw-shucks-of-course sort of suggestion at first, but obviously not when you give it a split second’s thought: conflating the two is like conflating what you’re born with: like being born with five toes on one’s left foot (assuming you’re not trans, in which case who knows) and being born, say, in a shithole country. You can change one and, strictly speaking, not the other. I was born with five toes on my left foot and in a shithole country. I couldn’t change my toe census but I did change my nationality, because I could (ironically opting for a nation that’s done an excellent job at digging itself into a shithole, so go figure), just as I changed my religion and let my allegiance to the Yankees lapse, again because I could, or wanted to, or needed to: the reason isn’t anyone’s business but my own, as it is with sexuality, considering that what we’re born with in that regard doesn’t necessarily correspond with what we’re born with between the legs. Surely you don’t think that, having screwed up everything else about Man, god couldn’t screw up penises and vaginas? I’m happy for you that every cell in your body is hardwired to be a man, but surely your wires don’t extend to the next man or woman, or however an individual identifies. Respect and dignity is not a condescending proposition, and it’s meaningless when it rests on qualifiers that scream contempt.

  2. Nancy N. says:

    The reason that FBI crime statistics aren’t quoted is because barely any of that data is reported to the FBI since the government has decided that it doesn’t care to compel local and state authorities to report it to them.

    FlaglerRedo, your entire comment reeks of bigotry, from the usage of “normal” to refer to cisgender people, to your ignorant interchanging of the words sex and gender. I suggest you familiarize yourself a bit more with what being transgender really means, and with research on the subject, before spouting off.

  3. Merrill Shapiro says:

    At least religious organizations are supportive of trans persons! They believe in the words of the Prophet Micah 4:4 and continue to work for a world in which “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

  4. Dave says:

    Flagler redo, what exactly is a NORMAL person again? You might want to check yourself because something is obviously off with your statement.

  5. capt says:

    In these days, there is no normal anymore, times change. Respect all humans for whom they are.

  6. Alex says:

    Unbelievable!!! people!! Look if your born a man. your a man !!,if your born a woman. then your a woman!! That being said if your a woman but identify yourself as a man. live as a man talk like a man everything about you is a man. That’s your right!! But it still doesn’t change the fact that you can still bare a child. Trans. Or not. And No I truly don’t care what people do with them selves. But when the choices of people, affect others thats when people voice there opinions. And when there opinons do not coincide with a trans beliefs they say its hateful. To explain choices of others (trans woman walks into bathroom with a father’s young girls in there what’s he suppose to do wait to see if it’s a true trans woman or some weirdo trying to do something terrible) now as terrible as that statement sounds is that not a genuine concern? All I’m trying to get across is that it’s not all about the rights of a trans gender, there are the rights of others also. Now i am in no way saying i have the answer to these issues. But there are alot of factors to consider on this issue and to be hounest i hope it can be figured out.

  7. Dave says:

    Alex, Being able to birth a child does not define a woman. There are many women born women who can’t have children.

  8. Really says:

    Wheres Popeye when you need him “I am what I am”

  9. Tom Brown says:

    Thank you for your courage to carry this essay. Some five years ago, New Church Family, a Daytona Christian congregation, moved into a larger building with two multiple-user restrooms. After holding forums to educate ourselves about various transgender issues, we designated both restrooms as open to all genders. and we’ve had zero problems or complaints. Restroom doors can be locked for those who need complete privacy. Otherwise, using a private stall in either restroom is the commonsense solution that’s accepted by most of our members.

  10. jake says:

    ” Even Democratic darling Kamala Harris repeatedly fought to deny life-saving medical treatment to incarcerated trans women when she served as California’s attorney general.”

    I would like more specifics regarding this claim. If “life-saving medical treatment” is just another way of saying tax payers should pay for gender reassignment surgery, then Kamala Harris did her job. Be what you want to be, just don’t expect the tax paying public to fund you choice.

  11. FlaglerRedo says:

    What is the definition of “normal”? It means conforming to a standard. So Dave, what is your definition on how a normal man/woman acts and dresses? Non Conformist tend to be cast out. This was probably an evolutionary human trait.

    Pierre, the survey wasn’t scientific. The only time you people love the sciences is when you use it for your climate change agenda. When it come to genetics, social evolution, or when life begins, Science goes out the window. Please stay consistent.

    @Nancy N. Wow…..I’m looking to where I used the word “gender”. I purposely stayed away from that word. I suggest you should familiarize yourself with reality.

    I personally would never stand for anyone being assaulted or abused in my presence.

  12. Agkistrodon says:

    As a University trained and retired Biologist, I fully understand what Science says, and how many sexes there are. There are few gray areas and those are what are known as “anomalies”. Which are defined as, Something that deviates from standard, normal, or expected. That is the definition SCIENCE gives it. So you see, in SCIENCE, the term “normal” is a accepted and perfectly USEFUL term.

  13. Alex says:

    Yes Dave ,that is true unfortunately. And there are males who are males, who have problems for one reason or another that can’t produce a child. But they are still male.My point is. If you have a penis and a set of testicles your are male. If you have a vagina ,breasts,ovaries,uterus,working or not you are a female. So know matter how anyone wants to twist words or statements around does not change the facts. And I personally don’t care what a person calls them selves or how they want to live. I guess I should not have used the word woman in last statement. But it’s getting a little crazy on how people play on words,When you know damn we’ll what the person is saying.like when a person says ,you people are crazy. Just in conversation,and someone says (what you mean you people)it is getting outrageous! And also I keep reading about the word normal. What we read about and see everyday has become the normal.

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